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Mi Familia Vota Education Fund (MFVEF) is a national non-profit organization working to unite the Latino community and its allies to promote social and economic justice through increased civic participation.
We do this by:
• Expanding the electorate through direct, sustainable citizenship, voter registration, census education, GOTV and issue organizing in key states;
• Forming and supporting key alliances at national, state and local levels to increase civic engagement; providing technical assistance and support to other organizations;
• Increasing public support for full civic participation in Latino and immigrant communities.
We envision a future in which the electorate is energized and empowered, and reflective of the growing diversity in the United States. We work with community based, educational, religious, labor, and other organizations that seek to build civically cognizant and active neighborhoods.
As a Ya es Hora national partner, Mi Familia Vota is dynamically involved in increasing citizenship, census education and Get Out the Vote efforts through the ¡Cuidadanía!, ¡Hágase Contar!, and ¡Ve Y Vota! campaigns.
Currently, Mi Familia Vota has offices in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Texas.
The story of Mi Familia Vota begins in California, where generations of Latinos have worked and struggled to make their voices heard; their contributions recognized; and their issues incorporated as an integral part of the American agenda. In the 1950’s, organizations such as the Community Service Organization, (CSO) pioneered citizenship and voter registration activities that expanded the Latino electorate and resulted in the election of office-holders throughout the state.
By the 1970’s, as these organizations faltered, civic engagement activities also lost momentum. However, in 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Simpson-Rodino bill that allowed 2.7 million undocumented immigrants to legalize their status; put them on the path to residency and eventually citizenship.
This was a breakthrough moment for a community that had been suffering under the effects of a broken impractical immigration system and this action began the full integration of these immigrants into our society.
In 1994, these efforts suffered a major setback when Governor Pete Wilson, who was running for re-election as Governor, made battling against undocumented immigrants the cornerstone of his campaign. His vehicle was Proposition 187, which sought to deny access to healthcare, public education, and other services to undocumented immigrants. What followed was a divisive and bitter campaign that demonized all immigrants and turned Californians against Californians.
Even though Proposition 187 passed, it mobilized a unified coalition of students, community activists, union members and people of faith that saw Proposition 187 as a xenophobic discriminatory ploy that unfairly targeted immigrants and Latinos for political gain. Passage of the initiative did not stop the mobilization.
Three weeks prior to the election, 70,000 people marched against the initiative in downtown Los Angeles. This triggered off renewed interest in civic engagement and the groups began working together on citizenship, voter education and registration activities for state and local races. These efforts paid off as Latinos became the pivotal vote in the gubernatorial election of 1998 and in down ballot races.
In 1998, recognizing the opportunity that this presented to build an expanded and engaged electorate, the Service Employees International Union, (SEIU), founded the Organization of Los Angeles Workers, (OLAW), a non-partisan civic organization. OLAW’s mission was to expand the voice of the Latino community through civic education, citizenship, and voter registration and mobilization campaigns. OLAW’s strategy was to build partnerships with key segments of the community, including business, labor, community organizations, church, and ethnic media, with a goal of creating a culture of civic engagement and activism--one that was broadly embraced and supported.
The initial campaign was called "Mi Familia Vota 100%", a theme intended to build on the community’s family values and to cement the belief that, in order to succeed, everyone has to participate; that voting is a social, not an individual isolated act. The OLAW program was also designed to be a year-round activity, not just during election cycles. During off years, OLAW would conduct issue advocacy and citizenship campaigns in order to create an ongoing relationship with the community and to prepare for the election mobilization.
The strategy also called for deepening the leadership base by developing local indigenous leadership and infrastructure for the long term. This was done by ensuring that community members were hired and trained in community organizing, media relations, and campaign management. To gauge progress and impact of the campaign, OLAW did polling and extensive electoral analysis in order to determine voter awareness of civic participation and turnout during the election. Results were very favorable and encouraged further investment and expansion. In 2004, civic engagement activities, under the name "Mi Familia Vota" expanded to Illinois, Florida and Maine. Response was overwhelmingly positive. In late 2005, Cong. James Sensenbrenner (R) Wisc, introduced bill HR 4437 in the US House of Representatives.
This bill would have criminalized undocumented immigrants and anyone who aided them, including churches, community organizations and unions who gave them any assistance. There was an immediate public condemnation of this bill and in 2006, the Latino and immigrant community responded with massive mobilizations throughout the country.
In April 2006, 3 million people -immigrants and native born; men and women; blue collar and professionals; young and old; all ethnicities---marched to protest against the Sensenbrenner bill in over 40 states and in 140 communities. This was the largest mobilization over a three-day period in the history of this country. The Sensenbrenner bill died without ever coming to a House vote.
This bill served as a wake-up call to the community about the importance of civic engagement and a sense of its potential power. After the marches, Mi Familia Vota, who had become the successor to OLAW, began working with the National Association of Latino Elected and appointed officials (NALEO); the National Council of La Raza (NCLR); Univision; Entravision and Impremedia, the leading Spanish-language media in the United States, to develop a campaign to inform and motivate the Latino Community to participate in the civic life of this country.
The campaign was called YA ES HORA (now is the time), and its national goal was to motivate 1 million Latino legal permanent residents to apply for citizenship. With the participation of over 400 labor, civic and community organizations, 1.4 million people applied for citizenship, surpassing the goal by 400,000 applications. In 2008, MFV and its partners turned its attention to the upcoming presidential elections.
MFV focused its GOTV efforts in Arizona, Texas, Colorado and Nevada, while continuing its partnership with the community organizations and the media. The outcome was a turnout of 9.7 million Latinos, an increase of 2.2 million over the 2004 election. In 2009, the YA ES HORA-HÁGASE CONTAR (Now is the time: make yourself count) campaign focused on encouraging participation in the 2010 Census. MFV once again played an important role, along with its partners, in providing information and advocating for full participation.
After the census, the campaign, now named YA ES HORA-VE Y VOTA (Now is the time: go and vote), encouraged the community to turn out and vote in the election. As a result, the Latino vote is widely credited with being the decisive vote in the outcome of the 2010 congressional and senatorial races in California, Colorado, and Nevada. As a result, the Latino vote has now become a sought after commodity during the 2012 election. MFV is proud of the role it has played throughout its history in making this possible. In 2012, MFV has expanded its operations, in addition to Colorado, Nevada, Arizona and Texas, to Florida and once again California.
MFV has become one of the premier civic engagement organizations in the country, with a trained and skilled cadre of professionals dedicated to the empowerment and civic participation of the Latino community. Its goal is, and will continue to be, to fuel non-partisan, grass roots civic engagement that will advance and promote social and economic justice for the Latino community.
Its mission is to provide Latino immigrants a voice in our country’s democratic process by developing and making available the tools necessary for immigrants to become citizens, for citizens to become voters and for voters to become active participants in our country’s democratic process for years to come. MFV’s primary audiences are Latinos in the U.S. who are Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs), and Low Propensity Latino Voters (LPLVs). LPRs are defined as Latinos who have been given lawful status by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.
However, LPR status is not really permanent; there are many circumstances that can lead to loss of status. MFV is reaching these LPRs to become U.S. Citizens if they are eligible and meet the requirements. LPLVs are defined as Latinos who either: 1. Voted in either the 2006 general election or the 2008 general election, but not both; or 2. Registered too late to vote in the 2008 election, but able to vote in the 2010 election.
These Latinos consist of two key segments: Spanish-dominant, first generation Latinos and bilingual / English-preferred, acculturated Latinos. MFV’s Board of Directors is a diverse and committed group of labor, community, business and civic leaders from throughout the United States. They are united in the belief that democracy works best when we all participate; have an equal opportunity to be heard; and to contribute to society as full partners. Visit our "Board of Directors" page at www.mifamiliavota.org to learn who they are.
- Stefenie Fuentes
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